A word of grace for you, particularly if you are in a season of questioning:
I’ve a handful of people I’m close with right now who are filled with questions and disillusionment as they are trying to grapple with an odd-shaped, grotesque “something” that has landed in their lives; that is, it just doesn’t belong and it fits within no narrative as to where they appeared to be headed. It may be a professional issue, relational crisis, physical difficulty, or any other such unwanted intrusion. Whatever it is, they can’t get rid of it and are seeking to understand what it means for them now to live with this horrid thing that has descended into their worlds. With one such friend the word “trajectory” came out of me in speaking about how none saw this particular intrusion ever being in his orbit, because of the direction he seemed to be headed in. And yet it is there, wreaking havoc, pointing to nothing discernable, insisting that it alone is the true reality. The specifics may be different, but in all of my friends’ situations, the sense of bafflement is the same: How is this part of my journey? Lord? Why? How on earth does it fit in with where I thought I was headed?
Allow me to share my own such place of questioning, although I fully acknowledge that mine is nowhere near charged with the grief and pain that others are experiencing. Mine is filled more with confusion and absence than pain, for sure. But nonetheless, where I am right now does not seem to fit with where I thought I was heading, and the same traces of bewilderment and searching are present.
As I look back over the past 5-6 years or so, there was a direction I appeared to be heading in as my gifts developed, in which a slow but steady momentum formed, and one step after another seemed to bring me closer to a dawning horizon teasing with the light of clarity. But somehow I ended up in a land of vast, plentiful…….nothingness. The momentum has quietly unraveled and I feel directionless. And so I am in a place now of waiting, I suppose. Whether I am waiting on the Lord or He is waiting on me remains unclear.
I’ve spent much time lately seeking to discern what else this might mean and mentally replaying the recent past, not only in my own current questioning but in the lives of my fellow questioners. Competing, dissonant thoughts hurl around my mind as I seek to wade through the enormity in observing the spiritual life, and I find what I refer to as my faith gaps sometimes to be far more broken apart and wider than they may have initially appeared.
Faith gaps: the elements in my beliefs that just don’t seamlessly fit together. These range from the big universal intellectual questions - why, if there is a loving God, are there are abused and starving children in the world in places where it’s likely they’ll never even have a chance? - to the superficially personal, such as why, if You are a loving God, did You give me a slow metabolism and a deep affinity for rich chocolate? – to the painfully personal. You know those questions. These and others are the gaps that I have to sometimes simply jump over in my walk and leave a sign up for myself when I return to ponder them again that I still don’t get this……this still isn’t settled for me. I’ve experienced the presence of the Lord working in my life in far too many ways now for me to just stop when I encounter one of these gaps and turn around and leave Him. I know the Lord is the Lord. I believe His Word is true and the things He says about me are true. I’ve also learned I don’t need to fear that the gaps are there. I wish they weren’t, but I’ve also learned that spiritual growth isn’t about intellectually figuring God out so that nothing can be argued with. His thoughts are not my thoughts, and His ways are not my mine (Isaiah 55:8). And yet, if I’m honest, perhaps I will one day arrive at a faith gap that paralyzes me for a while, rendering me incapable (and unwilling?) in my own power of stepping forward. Maybe that’s where you are. It’s okay to stop and weep. Longing and trust do not have to be opposites.
Maybe this is a season where nothing has turned out quite as you assumed would be so, whether there is tragedy and pain or simply questions and uncertainty. Whether you have had something unwanted come storming into your life or you are experiencing the agony of nothing changing when deep change is desired so, the struggle lies in accepting the truth of your trajectory despite what is or isn’t occurring. How much of what is real and really happening right now stands as a sign post for where you are headed?
Perhaps God is drawing you to a time of examination: Where did you think you were headed and where you are now? Do not assume this season is about discipline, though it may be. Do not assume it is because of some failure on your part, though there may be truth in this, too. The most important things to never assume are that you bear the Lord’s omniscience or that He has given up on you.
As you search and examine, life goes on, and your journey then shrinks down to the very next thing in front of you, and how you will choose to encounter it. Regardless of the nature of our struggles, I believe the release of our needing to know right now how this unexpected intrusion fits is key to moving forward. We obviously have great influence over what transpires on our journeys, and yet ultimately we are not in control. There is only so much we can maneuver, try as we might. - "Signature Sins", by Michael nd a mountain. I come back to the same side of the mountain and see what is essentially the same view, except that now I see it from a different height and with greater clarity. Our growth is cyclical like that. It is not a ladder but a winding staircase. It is not a straight line but more like a helix. We need to purge our house of idols not once but repeatedly throughout our lives."- "Signature Sins", In my own little story here, it took some weeks and months of processing, but three moments of revelation hit me where truth was dusted off and new light shone as I began to understand where the Lord was and is working.
I had assumed the trajectory of my path was leading towards a grand unveiling, I guess, of His purposes for me. Opportunities to use my gifts had been broadening before me, and I put much learning and practice into cultivating my skills. I believed He was opening doors for something concrete to be placed in my pathway. This isn’t what has transpired. And so while I had come to believe that my trajectory was leading to fulfilling work and purpose, what I’ve come to now see is that God’s trajectory for me was to bring me to the end of myself.
I had also assumed the trajectory of my path was leading towards a continual, steady maturity as my faith grew. I was becoming more learned and wise so that a real substance behind my gifts would make me more usable and effective, therefore bringing Him greater glory as He placed me with those He so desired. No doubt this has happened to some degree. No doubt. But what I’ve come to now see is that while I had assumed God’s trajectory for me was that I would deepen and strengthen and broaden in my capacities, His trajectory was and is to teach me to walk with Him, my Father, and help me learn what it means to find my mustard seed of faith after a season of wondering where it might have gotten to, in the absence of seeing any of the fruit I thought for sure He had planted within me to bear. (See Matthew 17:14-21 for scripture on mustard seeds.)
And third, I had assumed the trajectory of my path was leading towards a growing quiet confidence in who I am and in His hand actively guiding my life, as an iron-clad faith would form, making me one who would stand firm and not be shaken. But I now see that God’s trajectory for me was to bring me on my knees, poor in spirit, in prayer and worship, at the foot of the cross.
None of these assumptions I had made were wrong or bad. They are all good, healthy, biblical things. Knowing whether this is discipline or training or whatever else is unnecessary. I suppose it can be many things all at once. But one thing I do know is that it is a loving Father insisting on nothing but His best for His child, even if He knows His child cannot understand. It doesn’t mean the evil things that may be happening to you aren’t evil. It also doesn’t mean what appears to be good isn’t good. It doesn’t even mean that the things I assumed aren’t after all part of what He plans to do in me and through me. In fact, I’m certain otherwise. It simply means that He is the Lord, and I am not.
A God-authored trajectory may or may not bring you success as you define it, clarity at your desired time, or internal tranquility with every decision, but it will always bring you to the foot of the cross.
The narrow road of Jesus is paved with faith, but what lay under the faith, perhaps, is simply these daily questions: Where are you in this, Lord? How can this be? What is going on? The uneven terrain of our questions will lead us home as we trust that none of this needs to be fully answered before we take the next step in front of us. Perhaps when you, as His follower, reach the end of the road and the Lord is holding His hand out to you as you take that last step, you will turn around, and with perfected eyes, see that the imprint of your footsteps are worth more than the purest gold, for to Him they said “Yes”.
God sees. God hears. A blessed new year to you.